Seven. Really? I can only list seven?
Theoretically, there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of reasons why the San Diego Chargers are headed to the Super Bowl this year, but let’s see if I can’t cull them down to a more manageable seven. Seven insightful, compelling, absolutely iron-clad reasons why 2011-12 is finally their year.
Ready? Okay, let’s do it.
The San Diego Chargers have the best coach in the NFL.
Okay, that is a out-and-out lie. Turner is not the best coach in the NFL. He’s not even in Michael Lombardi’s (or anybody else’s not named AJ Smith) top 10. But he’s certainly not the worst. That distinction belongs to...wait, they fired that guy, didn’t they?
Yes, I have problems with Norv Turner the head coach, but I have a lot fewer problems with Norv Turner the offensive coordinator. Norv Turner the head coach has problems getting the team ready coming out of camp. Norv Turner the head coach has problems with clock management. Norv Turner the head coach can’t win a replay challenge to save his life. (Until this preseason, it seems.) But Norv Turner the offensive coordinator has some serious chops.
The Chargers led the NFL in total yards last year after being 10th in 2009 and 11th in 2008.
The Chargers were second in passing yards after being fifth in 2009 and seventh in 2008.
The Chargers were second in points scored after being fourth in 2009 and second in 2008.
By any measure, the Chargers are really good and getting better. I can only imagine what will happen when Turner gets all of his weapons back on the field at the same time.
Now, if he would only do something about his tendency to open every game and every other series with a run up the middle for no gain, who knows what would happen?
Okay, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Eric Weddle is the best safety in the NFL. I will tell you he’s good and getting better. Line up Bob Sanders, the AP NFL Defensive Player of Year in 2007, right next to him, and you just might have something San Diego hasn’t seen since...well, I’m not really sure there is a since when.
Really, have two safeties like this ever been part of the same Chargers defensive backfield?
I don’t think so.
Between the two of them, I truly believe the days of the opposing team’s tight end running willy-nilly through the secondary are over. If they are, this could be a season to remember.
I think we all can agree that Special Teams was more like Special Ed last year and that they can not, CANNOT, possibly get worse. (I think there’s something in Einstein‘s Theory of Relativity that categorically precludes it, but I could be wrong.) Even mediocre Special Teams play last season puts three, maybe four more Ws in the win column. And four more Ws not only would have put the Chargers in the playoffs, it would have gotten them a first round bye. And who knows what would have happened then.
So far, I like what I see on Special Teams and this is only preseason. I can’t wait until the regular season to see what new Special Teams coach Rich Bisaccia dials up. All they need is for one of the young kids to step up and take Kassim Osgood’s spot at gunner. Then they’ll really have something.
It’s not that I think the Chargers will be in better condition coming out of training camp this year, they won’t, I just think everyone else’s will be worse. Theoretically, the lockout favored no one. In practice, the Chargers’ slow starts may have finally met their equalizer.
Look, no one wants to hear it, but the Oakland Raiders kicked the Chargers’ butts the last few years. They had San Diego players laying all over the field opening game 2009. Ambulances were stacked three deep at the Oakland Coliseum. And it wasn’t much better last year. Early season games with better conditioned teams have been devastating.
Why is this year different?
Well, everyone is getting off to a slower start this year and the Chargers don’t see Oakland until Week 10. By which time, they should be in fighting shape.
Sure, Brandyn Dombrowski filled in admirably for Marcus McNeill last year and Philip Rivers can apparently throw touchdowns to guys he meets in the parking lot coming in, but getting these two pieces of the offense back for a full season is huge. Huge.
If there were such a thing as a shutdown left tackle, it would be McNeill. A two time Pro Bowler, McNeill not only protects Rivers’ blind side, he and Kris Dielman opened a lot of holes for LaDainian Tomlinson in his record breaking season of 2006. Rested and refreshed, it could happen again.
Which leaves Vincent Jackson. Jackson is a terror. On the field and sometimes off. But no one hauls in the deep ball like he does. At 6'5" and 240 pounds, opposing DBs look for help and/or a saddle when they see Jackson lined up across from them. After the Special Teams meltdown, I think losing Jackson was the single most important factor in the Chargers missing the playoffs last year.
People who aren’t plugged in to the San Diego Chargers hate Philips Rivers. Why? They say he’s cocky, he talks too much and he’s a crybaby. What they really mean is he whips their teams’ butts on a regular basis.
Look, that whole cocky, talks-too-much garbage was created by the media after a jawing session with Jay Cutler, and nobody, and I mean nobody, outside San Diego really got what actually happened. Most people still believe it was all Rivers’ doing. This even after Cutler cried his way out of Denver. But hey, after they’re created, media perceptions are hard to erase.
No, Rivers is a good guy who likes to talk. And talk. And talk. The only thing he likes more is playing quarterback. And at that he has few equals.
Bottom line? Rivers is an elite quarterback who only needs one more thing on his resume: A Super Bowl title. This could be the year he gets it.
One of the great mysteries in life is timing. If your timing is on, you get a date; if it’s off, you get punched.
In terms of the Chargers, I really think their stars are aligned this year. Why?
I think the players have stopped buying in to the hype.
I think all the pieces are back in the fold.
I think Norv Turner can learn from his mistakes.
I think events have conspired to eliminate or equalize all of the Chargers’ shortcomings.
I think they have the best quarterback in the league.
But mostly, I think it’s finally their turn.
Time will tell.